A right pack of laughs

9 February 2008

The Wolfson Howler, Wolfson College Bar, 4th February, 20:00

4 stars

Review Jon Andrews

Wolfson Howler may be Cambridge’s newest comedy show but never fear, there were no first-night nerves in this excellent gig. Right down to the last detail, Chris Lander has organised the thing well: a suitably-bearded DJ played immensely cool music, cheap cocktails flowed, and his frenetic energy and manic laugh made Lander a good Master of Ceremonies.

The night’s acts came in two varieties: first, the students, and then the imported London professionals. It must take a lot of nerve to stand in front of a discerning crowd armed only with a microphone, but the home-grown Cambridge talent shone admirably. David Ralfe gave a strong opening with his self-effacing tongue-in-cheekiness lampooning his own jeans (“like denim tights”) and the stereotypical male. Two monologues followed, with Tom Ovens’ “scientific ramblings” pushing the art of the awkward pause to its limits, (“I worship Richard Dawkins. That’s clever”), and Malcolm Platoon (Pete Riley) who, dressed as a somewhat antiquated motorcyclist, gave a dead-pan, system-subverting presentation with music, audience-participating ‘political theatre’ and visual aids, displaying a wonderful talent for the bizarre. The best was Abi Tedder’s tantalisingly concise set, in which she constantly prowled around the stage like a black-waistcoated panther, her doleful expression spouting perverse tales and oddly disquieting one-liners, (“She had a lot of ethnic things: either she’d traveled or killed some kind of immigrant.”)

It must be said that the students’ excellence compared favourably with the first of the headliners, the musings of Cambridge Alumnus Adam Terry, whose observations on the hellishness of London life had the nostalgic air of an age greater than his twenty-five years. Experience and sheer gesticulative vigour won out, however, in the form of Robin Ince, his sharp spectacles and unashamedly unethical cardigan making him look for all the world like a newsreader on his day off. He stormed through a middle-class rampage which mixed news of his newly-born “boy-child” with well-received rants, an apologetic love of science, and brilliant observations – (“all ecstasy did was make me slightly less miserable in a field”) – before the unfortunate college time-limits (slicker start-times, please!) forced him reluctantly from the stage.

My advice to you is simple: look Wolfson up on the map, book ahead, and miss the next Howler at your peril.